Those of you avid readers of web and online marketing news—usually from your favorite tablet in bed on a Saturday morning with a nice cup of brew, if you‘re anything like me—will have recently heard a lot of chatter about the importance of having a mobile-friendly website. However, for the benefit of our customers and followers who are not privy to the latest digital marketing trends, I am now going to explain to you not only what has been one of the biggest developments in Internet search, but also how search engines like Google are reacting to it, how it will affect your website and what you can do about it!
Mobile traffic surpasses desktop for the first time ever
At the back end of 2014, all the predictions in the evolution of web traffic finally came true. For the first time it was reported that mobile devices had taken over that of desktop usage, with 60% of Internet traffic originating from mobile app usage. This news has been referred to as the biggest shift since Internet began.
Around the same time it was announced that over 50% of visitors to retail and e-commerce websites were coming via smartphones and tablet devices, which is very important news for retailers with online shops.
Don’t just think this applies to businesses based in the United States or UK market. One of our very own customers here in Spain witnessed the tipping point when viewing their web analytics: “As I was studying on the traffic to our website, I came to realise, that it was very clear that most of our visitors were using mobile phones and tablets rather than desktop computers. Fortunately, ArayoWeb anticipated this and ensured our website was optimised for display on these devices. This has given us yet another edge over our competition.” Steve Hopkins, El Verificador.
Obviously this latest news is going to have a major impact on business around the globe that have not made the leap to adapt their website design to be mobile friendly. To find out more exactly what mobile and responsive design is you can refer to one of our previous blog posts: Responsive Design: what does it mean and how does it affect my website? Therefore, in this blog we’re not going to dwell on responsive design and how to make your website mobile friendly, but we’ll look at recent events in the industry of which any website owner should be made aware.
Google will give priority to mobile friendly websites from April 2015
For a while now, we have had an idea that a new algorithm was on its way that would favour responsive designed websites over ones that are not mobile friendly. The first was of course the continual upward trend in mobile usage for Internet search, which we have already discussed. Secondly, users of Google Webmaster Tools would have noticed a notification appearing on their dashboard prompting them to ‘fix mobile usability issues’ if any of their website pages were found to be non-mobile-friendly. Google also launched a whole micro-site on mobile optimisation dedicated to informing developers why they should make their websites mobile-friendly, also offering a guide on how they can configure sites to perform better on mobile devices.
Then, at the end of February came the long-awaited Google announcement. From the 21st April, Google would adapt its algorithm and thus start ranking websites higher than their non-responsive counterparts. Some welcomed the news as a chance to get ahead of their competitors, and others were filled with dread and wondered why they had ignored the incessant warnings of their webmaster for so long, fearing the inevitable loss of rankings and traffic. But don’t panic, there’s still time!
How do I know if my website is mobile friendly?
If you have recently visited a non-mobile-friendly website, you probably would have spotted the signals. Firstly, all the text would look incredibly small, rendering the whole site difficult to read. You would probably have had to zoom in to read the text, then scroll left and right to view all the content, which you may have noticed was rather awkward and impractical. Secondly, it would not have been user-friendly to navigate the website, with menu links being crammed so close together that you end up clicking on the wrong page. Pretty annoying, hey?! If your website has any of the above characteristics, it is certainly not mobile friendly.
You can also try searching for your site in Google from you mobile to see if it has the ‘mobile friendly’ label within your listing description in the search results, and checking in Google Webmaster Center (if this is not setup for your site contact your webmaster). Finally, you can also use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test, although this can be a bit misleading if you have a popup or notification on your home page that is slightly wider than the mobile screen. Our recommendation is that you therefore use a combination of all the above methods, and if any of them are give negative results or readings, then you need to act upon it immediately by contacting the person who develops and maintains your website.
Don’t miss out on sales opportunities – people like mobile-friendly sites too!
I know this article has focused a lot on how Google views your website and what negative affect may befall upon it in the near future in terms of SEO and its position in the search results, but one factor we should never for get is that actual web visitors prefer responsive websites too and are less likely to visit and stay on websites that are not mobile friendly. Therefore if your website is not mobile-friendly, not only could you lose out to your competition in the search engine ranking pages, but you’re also likely to lose the engagement of your target market, who may end up on a competitor site that is easier to read, resulting in a lost sales opportunity.